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SEC’s ‘broken windows’ policing of Wall Street ‘deeply flawed’ or necessary?

Publisher: The Guardian
Author: Suzanne McGee

At times, Mary Jo White sounds almost like Wyatt Earp, or some other law enforcer from the Old West – only without the gun.

“You have to be tough” has been White’s motto since taking over the Securities and Exchange Commission from Mary Schapiro in spring 2013.

“The SEC© is a law enforcement agency,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “You have to try to send as strong a message as you can, across as broad a swath of the market as you regulate, and that’s pretty broad.”

On the surface, she has followed through. The SEC© filed 686 enforcement actions in its 2013 fiscal year. In its 2014 fiscal year, White bragged that the number soared to 755, “the highest number of cases in the history of this commission”. Moreover, she has noted that the agency levied a whopping $4.1bn in penalties as part of those actions.

It all sounds great. But is it?

Securities lawyers – understandably enough – haven’t been big fans of the SEC’s saber-rattling, perhaps because it’s giving their clients a tough time, often for issues that they consider minor.

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